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Heat dome moves toward Alberta after shattering temperature records in B.C., N.W.T.

RangerRay

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Curious to hear from those who work with Hercs:

How easy/difficult is it to turn Hercs into air tankers to drop water or retardant? I so because I often see footage of USAF Hercs being used in that role in the US. If all the contracted air tanker companies are maxed out, is it conceivable that RCAF Hercs can be utilized in this role? Thanks.
 

MilEME09

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Curious to hear from those who work with Hercs:

How easy/difficult is it to turn Hercs into air tankers to drop water or retardant? I so because I often see footage of USAF Hercs being used in that role in the US. If all the contracted air tanker companies are maxed out, is it conceivable that RCAF Hercs can be utilized in this role? Thanks.
Quick Google search shows its a conversion to put in the floor discharge system and a 4000 gallon tank. I am guessing it isn't cheap or quick either.
 

PuckChaser

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Big balloon in the back, drop ramp, pitch up and loadie slices it open. Problem solved.
 

YZT580

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Dropping water in a fire zone requires significant training, practice and experience. Read the CADORS: every year experienced crews make headlines that I don't really want to read. If the government wants to employ hercs in this manner it needs to start now so that by next fire season the crews are ready to go.
 

lenaitch

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I suppose when you have about five times as many Hercs as we do it's easier to justify. Although I don't know for certain, the US military's role might be linked to concept of 'federal lands', which is about 60% of California's forests, as opposed to Crown Land, which is the responsibility of the province (federal Crown land is limited to the Territories).

One problem with Hercs and other converted aircraft is they need a suitable airport and ground infrastructure to re-load. Aircraft such as the CL-415, Fire Boss, Twin Otters, etc. is they can repeatedly and fairly quickly cycle to any suitable body of water - about 1.5 km long for the CL-415 (assuming there are lakes/rivers around). Their capacities may be smaller but they can probably put a lot more water on target in the same period of time.
 

SeaKingTacco

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I suppose when you have about five times as many Hercs as we do it's easier to justify. Although I don't know for certain, the US military's role might be linked to concept of 'federal lands', which is about 60% of California's forests, as opposed to Crown Land, which is the responsibility of the province (federal Crown land is limited to the Territories).

One problem with Hercs and other converted aircraft is they need a suitable airport and ground infrastructure to re-load. Aircraft such as the CL-415, Fire Boss, Twin Otters, etc. is they can repeatedly and fairly quickly cycle to any suitable body of water - about 1.5 km long for the CL-415 (assuming there are lakes/rivers around). Their capacities may be smaller but they can probably put a lot more water on target in the same period of time.
…and that is the secret of aerial firefighting. Cycle time.

It is all about how much retardant/water an aircraft can drop in an hour and at what cost.
 

daftandbarmy

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…and that is the secret of aerial firefighting. Cycle time.

It is all about how much retardant/water an aircraft can drop in an hour and at what cost.

That's one of the reasons why they never use the Martin MARS waterbomber anymore, although Coulson continues to try and play on public sentiments to get the government to pay for it :)

 

Good2Golf

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A380s should be coming onto the market soon…just sayin’.
 

RangerRay

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That's one of the reasons why they never use the Martin MARS waterbomber anymore, although Coulson continues to try and play on public sentiments to get the government to pay for it :)

It drives me nuts when I hear people cry for the Martin Mars, like they would extinguish a 100,000 ha fire in one swoop. 🤦‍♂️
 

RangerRay

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One problem with Hercs and other converted aircraft is they need a suitable airport and ground infrastructure to re-load. Aircraft such as the CL-415, Fire Boss, Twin Otters, etc. is they can repeatedly and fairly quickly cycle to any suitable body of water - about 1.5 km long for the CL-415 (assuming there are lakes/rivers around). Their capacities may be smaller but they can probably put a lot more water on target in the same period of time.
In BC, companies like Air Spray and Conair use large land-based planes like Electras, Convair CV580s, and BAE 146s, as well as smaller Air Tractors for fire suppression. I think it’s probably the only province that has to import CL-415s.
 

brihard

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In BC, companies like Air Spray and Conair use large land-based planes like Electras, Convair CV580s, and BAE 146s, as well as smaller Air Tractors for fire suppression. I think it’s probably the only province that has to import CL-415s.
Forgive my ignorance, I know practically nothing about aerial firefighting. Why has BC gone with land-based aircraft? Am I out to lunch in thinking that in most cases there will probably be a sufficiently sized linear water feature much closer to the fire? Wouldn’t the cycle time advantage be considerable in favour of the flying boat approach, even if capacity is somewhat smaller?
 

RangerRay

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Forgive my ignorance, I know practically nothing about aerial firefighting. Why has BC gone with land-based aircraft? Am I out to lunch in thinking that in most cases there will probably be a sufficiently sized linear water feature much closer to the fire? Wouldn’t the cycle time advantage be considerable in favour of the flying boat approach, even if capacity is somewhat smaller?
I believe it may have something to do with most lakes in the Interior being small and surrounded by steep terrain. Fire Bosses work good on those places with faster cycle times, but don’t have the capacity or range of an Electra. The larger lakes tend to be jam-packed with tourists on their boats. Also, there are plenty of airports and airstrips around the province that can service those planes.

That’s my WAG.
 

lenaitch

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I believe it may have something to do with most lakes in the Interior being small and surrounded by steep terrain. Fire Bosses work good on those places with faster cycle times, but don’t have the capacity or range of an Electra. The larger lakes tend to be jam-packed with tourists on their boats. Also, there are plenty of airports and airstrips around the province that can service those planes.

That’s my WAG.

That would be my take as well. In Northern Ontario, and I imagine Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well, it's pretty rare not to be within gliding distance of a decent-sized lake. The winds created by the steep terrain plus the turbulence and thermals caused by large fires would be a challenge.

On your second point:

 

daftandbarmy

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Good legislation: It’s a beautiful thing 😉


How the government can still forcibly conscript you to fight forest fires

More than 3,000 firefighters are already on the frontlines — and B.C. officials are scrambling to bring in more. But if the worst should happen, one of the lesser-known aspects of B.C. law is that it permits the government to forcibly conscript firefighters from the local populace.

The province’s Wildfire Act authorizes B.C.’s fire officials to “order a person who is 19 years of age or older to assist in fire control.” The person has to be “physically capable of doing so” and have skills that “can be used” to fight fires — but this technically applies to anyone who can wield a shovel or a pulaski.

The Act, passed after the record-breaking destruction of B.C.’s 2003 fire season, also allows the B.C. Wildfire Service to commandeer vehicles, equipment and even whole private businesses.

B.C. Wildfire can order any employer to redirect their staff “to carry out fire control, under an official’s direction,” with the payroll reimbursed by the province. This means that any highway crew, construction worker or logger operating within a wildfire zone can suddenly find themselves in the employ of the province working a fire line.

The conscription provisions are a throwback to a time when Canadian governments routinely fought wildfires by press-ganging local men into firefighting units. As late as the 1960s, B.C. fire crews were often recruited out of taverns or at roadblocks rounding up passing motorists.

“As a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I can remember that when a forest fire started, people were stopped on the highways, given a shovel and put to work,” reads a 2020 letter to the news site Castanet by Okanagan resident Cindy Nixdorf.

The famed British neurologist Oliver Sacks took a roadtrip through B.C. in 1960, and in a letter to his parents described being forcibly enlisted as a wildland firefighter.

“A sort of martial law exists, and the forest commission can conscript anyone they feel is suitable,” wrote Sacks, who described a day of “dragging hoses to and fro” with “other bewildered conscripts.”

The memoirist Barry Cotton similarly recounts a 1949 wedding in Vancouver being derailed because the best man was “press-ganged into fighting a forest fire.” With the press-ganging occurring in a region without telephone contact, the best man’s fate wasn’t known for several days.


How the government can still forcibly conscript you to fight forest fires
 

RangerRay

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Good legislation: It’s a beautiful thing 😉


How the government can still forcibly conscript you to fight forest fires

More than 3,000 firefighters are already on the frontlines — and B.C. officials are scrambling to bring in more. But if the worst should happen, one of the lesser-known aspects of B.C. law is that it permits the government to forcibly conscript firefighters from the local populace.

The province’s Wildfire Act authorizes B.C.’s fire officials to “order a person who is 19 years of age or older to assist in fire control.” The person has to be “physically capable of doing so” and have skills that “can be used” to fight fires — but this technically applies to anyone who can wield a shovel or a pulaski.

The Act, passed after the record-breaking destruction of B.C.’s 2003 fire season, also allows the B.C. Wildfire Service to commandeer vehicles, equipment and even whole private businesses.

B.C. Wildfire can order any employer to redirect their staff “to carry out fire control, under an official’s direction,” with the payroll reimbursed by the province. This means that any highway crew, construction worker or logger operating within a wildfire zone can suddenly find themselves in the employ of the province working a fire line.

The conscription provisions are a throwback to a time when Canadian governments routinely fought wildfires by press-ganging local men into firefighting units. As late as the 1960s, B.C. fire crews were often recruited out of taverns or at roadblocks rounding up passing motorists.

“As a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I can remember that when a forest fire started, people were stopped on the highways, given a shovel and put to work,” reads a 2020 letter to the news site Castanet by Okanagan resident Cindy Nixdorf.

The famed British neurologist Oliver Sacks took a roadtrip through B.C. in 1960, and in a letter to his parents described being forcibly enlisted as a wildland firefighter.

“A sort of martial law exists, and the forest commission can conscript anyone they feel is suitable,” wrote Sacks, who described a day of “dragging hoses to and fro” with “other bewildered conscripts.”

The memoirist Barry Cotton similarly recounts a 1949 wedding in Vancouver being derailed because the best man was “press-ganged into fighting a forest fire.” With the press-ganging occurring in a region without telephone contact, the best man’s fate wasn’t known for several days.


How the government can still forcibly conscript you to fight forest fires
That law is still on the books, but I don’t think it’s been used for a very long time. It would be a huge liability throwing untrained and unfit civies into a potentially dangerous situation, never mind Charter implications. It’s bad enough when they do a call for Emergency Fire Fighters (EFFs) and all sorts of people show up wearing flip-flops and worn out runners.
 

foresterab

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Forgive my ignorance, I know practically nothing about aerial firefighting. Why has BC gone with land-based aircraft? Am I out to lunch in thinking that in most cases there will probably be a sufficiently sized linear water feature much closer to the fire? Wouldn’t the cycle time advantage be considerable in favour of the flying boat approach, even if capacity is somewhat smaller?
I believe it may have something to do with most lakes in the Interior being small and surrounded by steep terrain. Fire Bosses work good on those places with faster cycle times, but don’t have the capacity or range of an Electra. The larger lakes tend to be jam-packed with tourists on their boats. Also, there are plenty of airports and airstrips around the province that can service those planes.

That’s my WAG.
British Columbia, like Alberta uses a mix of air frames as they try to balance out the demands. Large airframes like the Electra L-188 (Miltary version is a P-3 Orion) are able to handle thermals and wind gusts better than small planes but have limitations on how close you can align with topography as they're not the most nimble. Smaller Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT's) like the Air Tractor -802's (Think Dusty from Planes Fire and Rescue...thank you Disney) are effective at being able to nip into those tight spaces but are limited by capacity and more susceptible to erratic wind conditions. Most air tanker fleets are referred to as groups and range from single tanker groups of larger machines to 5-6 smaller SEATS depending on province.

Much of the fire fighting fleet in Canada is based around hard surface airstrips and airports due to ability to load the red fire retardant onto the plane that is much more effective than just water. While it does not extinguish fires it does help slow the fire growth if used on the right conditions in order to allow ground crews space to safely move in.....very similar to tactical air support for infantry operations. Water can be used also but the absence of the retardant means that you start trade off pure water volume and cycle time discussions vs. reload distances and these planes are usually dispatched with a retardant load on board for at least the initial drop. All the "scooper" air craft in Canada used are also able to land on airports and often will mix loads during a mission depending on air space control timing and needs especially if multiple planes are stacked up.

The other big change is what is needed for the drop profile. While a SEAT aircraft generally has a single drop capacity some of the larger machines such as the Electra have the ability to manipulate the bay doors to allow for a single drop (a large slug good for punching through treed canopy) vs. half doors (a longer liner drop) vs. sequenced doors (good for a long drop especially in light fuels such as grass). While the US uses some even larger machines (747's, DC-10's) the weight of these very large air tankers means that you are basically talking B-52 suitable bases for reloading which makes them less practical for most Canadian fires.

The USAF uses 2? 3? National Guard squadrons who are specifically trained on fire fighting with the additional on an internal MAFF tank system which is a compressed air assisted jet of water coming out the side doors of the C-130. The C-130 is also used, and has a long history of being used, as an air tanker when in private fleets but the only ones I know of are the 2 Coulson Aviation has under contract in Australia (C-130Q and a civilian model of the C-130).
 

foresterab

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That law is still on the books, but I don’t think it’s been used for a very long time. It would be a huge liability throwing untrained and unfit civies into a potentially dangerous situation, never mind Charter implications. It’s bad enough when they do a call for Emergency Fire Fighters (EFFs) and all sorts of people show up wearing flip-flops and worn out runners.
The law still exists in Alberta too but again the liability issues have prevented it from being used often. The TransCanada highway is not being shut down any more to conscript on the spot able men unlike 100 years ago.

Heavy equipment and its' operators...much more common than Joe walking down the street being handed a shovel.
 

daftandbarmy

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British Columbia, like Alberta uses a mix of air frames as they try to balance out the demands. Large airframes like the Electra L-188 (Miltary version is a P-3 Orion) are able to handle thermals and wind gusts better than small planes but have limitations on how close you can align with topography as they're not the most nimble. Smaller Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT's) like the Air Tractor -802's (Think Dusty from Planes Fire and Rescue...thank you Disney) are effective at being able to nip into those tight spaces but are limited by capacity and more susceptible to erratic wind conditions. Most air tanker fleets are referred to as groups and range from single tanker groups of larger machines to 5-6 smaller SEATS depending on province.

Much of the fire fighting fleet in Canada is based around hard surface airstrips and airports due to ability to load the red fire retardant onto the plane that is much more effective than just water. While it does not extinguish fires it does help slow the fire growth if used on the right conditions in order to allow ground crews space to safely move in.....very similar to tactical air support for infantry operations. Water can be used also but the absence of the retardant means that you start trade off pure water volume and cycle time discussions vs. reload distances and these planes are usually dispatched with a retardant load on board for at least the initial drop. All the "scooper" air craft in Canada used are also able to land on airports and often will mix loads during a mission depending on air space control timing and needs especially if multiple planes are stacked up.

The other big change is what is needed for the drop profile. While a SEAT aircraft generally has a single drop capacity some of the larger machines such as the Electra have the ability to manipulate the bay doors to allow for a single drop (a large slug good for punching through treed canopy) vs. half doors (a longer liner drop) vs. sequenced doors (good for a long drop especially in light fuels such as grass). While the US uses some even larger machines (747's, DC-10's) the weight of these very large air tankers means that you are basically talking B-52 suitable bases for reloading which makes them less practical for most Canadian fires.

The USAF uses 2? 3? National Guard squadrons who are specifically trained on fire fighting with the additional on an internal MAFF tank system which is a compressed air assisted jet of water coming out the side doors of the C-130. The C-130 is also used, and has a long history of being used, as an air tanker when in private fleets but the only ones I know of are the 2 Coulson Aviation has under contract in Australia (C-130Q and a civilian model of the C-130).

Good info, thanks!

Sadly the Air Guard had a fatal crash while fighting fires in 2012: Air Force report says microburst caused crash of MAFFS air tanker
 

foresterab

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Good info, thanks!

Sadly the Air Guard had a fatal crash while fighting fires in 2012: Air Force report says microburst caused crash of MAFFS air tanker
Family of water bomber pilot who crashed near Cold Lake take solace in support from community
Or here's a SEAT tanker that was flipped by a wind gust while fighting a fire in 2015 on CFB Cold Lake.

It is not a flying job for the faint of heart and has zero margin for error. There's already been a couple of aircraft related fatalities this year (Alberta with a Bell-212 helicopter and Arizona with a Beechcraft King Air) not to mention a number of line related fatalities.
 
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